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String Cheese Incident wasn’t invited back, but Dillon Amphitheater has nevertheless become a Colorado concert destination

More than a dozen Red Rocks headliners and other big artists are steering their tours through the town of Dillon this summer, where a 3,656-capacity amphitheater offers both gorgeous views of Dillon Reservoir and another chance for musicians to perform.

Last Thursday, promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains announced a show there with country star Maren Morris for June 12, joining concerts scheduled this summer from Vampire Weekend, Portugal. The Man, Lake Street Dive, Jason Isbell, Trampled by Turtles and other artists who have easily sold out Red Rocks’ 9,545 capacity in the past.

Each of those concerts — and the 2024 calendar is still unfolding — is a clear boon for the 1,057-person ski town, said Jessie Klehfoth, Dillon’s events and recreation director. “With a capacity of 3,656, any sold-out show at the Dillon Amphitheater has the potential to bring in a million dollars of economic impact to the area.”

That’s not unique with other venues and is, in fact, a smaller version of the growth that Red Rocks has seen in recent years. Owned by the city of Denver, Red Rocks employs 1,500 people during the season and supports about 5,500 jobs, representing an annual total impact of $216 million in income (paychecks) and $717 million in economic output in the Denver metro area (spending), according to BBC Research & Consulting.

There is at least one act, however, that wasn’t invited back to Dillon Amphitheater for 2024: Colorado jam-band titan The String Cheese Incident (SCI).

Despite regular shows there — including the first-ever paid concert at the venue in July 2018 — the group released a statement on Instagram on Jan. 31 addressing its absence from the amphitheater’s 2024 calendar, which fans immediately noticed when SCI announced its July 12-14 Red Rocks dates.

“We hear you all and share in the disappointment of not returning to Dillon this year,” band members wrote, “but despite our best efforts and how much we wanted to return, we were not invited back by the town. We look forward to seeing you all at Red Rocks for 3 magical nights.”

After the group posted the statement, dozens of message-board and social media comments arrived with allegations that it was payback for bad behavior by fans. Some even claimed that it was because supporters who couldn’t get tickets attempted to dig holes under the fencing.

Klehfoth called those false rumors. “No, fans of SCI did not dig holes around the fence, so no SCI fans were arrested for doing so,” she said of the posts on Facebook, Instagram and Reddit.

Klehfoth, however, refused to say why SCI was not invited back, despite the band bringing thousands of people to Dillon every year.

Members of SCI, through a publicist, also declined to answer questions about it from The Denver Post. That hasn’t stopped fans from posting a pair of petitions to bring them back, including one that characterized SCI’s absence as an official prohibition.

“We understand that there might be concerns related to noise or crowd management; however we believe these can be addressed through constructive dialogue rather than outright bans,” the author of the petition wrote.

Leaders at AEG Presents, the amphitheater’s main booker, said an emphasis on genre diversity may be the reason SCI isn’t playing Dillon this year. “They do have limited dates for paid shows, so that’s the feedback I got from the town,” said Don Strasburg, co-president and senior talent buyer for AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. “The String Cheese Incident has played every year for many years, and I understand they’d like to see other artists play.”

Strasburg added that he was unaware of any problems taking place on Dillon Amphitheater’s property during AEG-produced concerts last year.

“We love the (SCI) audience, personally,” he said, noting that AEG is producing 20 or so paid concerts in Dillon this year — about the same amount of as last year. (Country artist Morris, on June 12, is currently the season’s kickoff show.)

Rebuilt from the ground up in 2018, at a cost of $9.7 million, the goal of the amphitheater is to help drive spending in the Summit County town. But it ran at a deficit from 2019 to 2021, according to Klehfoth. Free shows last year also cost the town $1,500 to $44,000 per show.

But it was never meant to be a money-making endeavor, she added, and the amphitheater’s general operating fund has broken even for the past two years.

What it has done is helped market the town as a must-visit destination for music fans, who have raved online about the venue’s picturesque setting, expanded amenities and robust programming.

AEG Presents bookings have a lot to do with that. But the promoter always defers to amphitheater officials, Strasburg said, noting that AEG has no control over the venue’s calendar, including its preferences for or against jam bands.

“There are other artists in different genres that they have declined to have return out of their desire for variety, so this isn’t a jam-band thing,” Strasburg said.

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